Wednesday, August 24, 2016


While working on the electronics of El Capitan, I learned the hard way that soldering iron holders get just about as hot as the iron itself. Might take a day or two to get over that one. I now have a pretty decent burn across my thumb and middle fingers on my right hand. At least it's not on the left... I'll count my blessings... just using the other hand for now.

That said, a new soldering iron stand is in order. One that will help me not burn myself during future projects.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Build Monday: El Electronics

El Capitan finally got some electronics installed. It was not without incident, though. I'll post more on that later.

Seems to be something missing in a few body cavities.

Ah, that's looking nicer.

Selector switch soldered on and pickups installed. The two volume knobs and tone knob are also wired, but not yet poking through to the front. That'll come very shortly.

Next up on this build is adding the bridge hardware and tuners so I can hear it sing. That will be a great day.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Gear Friday: Inventables X-Carve CNC Router Progress

I was asked how the assembly of the X-Carve was coming along. Well, slowly. I've been pretty busy outside of the workshop lately, so it's been slowly getting assembled. At this point, I have the X-axis pretty well done. The motor can glide across the rails nice and easy.

While it doesn't look like I've done much, there is quite a bit of small assembly to do on both of those end pieces, and getting the screws that were missing took some time as well. I think I'm back on track to get this assembled, though. Next up is the Y-axis, and then I can start really making it look like something rather than a fancy clothes hanger.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

JRZ System - Great performance

I enjoy going to see live music, so this week I decided to post a clip from one of the recent shows I attended. This is JRZ System performing one of their new songs at a CD release party. 

So while you may be wondering why I chose this clip, I did have a reason. That guitar player on the right was my instructor nearly 20 years ago. He's since been touring with various bands and is currently in Kill Devil Hill, but he took his time between albums with them to do another album with JRZ. It was truly our gain, and it was great to see my instructor perform again.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Build Monday : El Capitan gets glued

Time for some glue on El Capitan today. I got out my clamp, a small table and my my wood glue to attach the neck finally.

With a neck attached, it looks a lot more like a guitar. Oh, and since a bare headstock is one of my pet peeves, I took care of that as well.

That's the gamer tag that my boys use, so we decided this would be a suitable name for our guitar building as well. A bit of gloss over that and it'll look even more finished.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Gear Friday: Why so much gear?

I get asked quite often, "Why do you need so much gear?"

Let me start with PA systems.

If I were to take 4 18's, my big mains, 6 monitors, and 15,000+ watts to a small bar, not only would half of the equipment not fit in the venue, the band would be so loud nobody would stay. Add to the fact that this stuff is heavy and it's extreme overkill. So, I have 3 setups. Small, medium and large if you will. This allows me to match the system to the venue, anything from small and intimate to outdoors and loud.

So some of you are saying "Sure, that makes sense, but why so many guitar amps?"

Well, again, I don't need a 4x12 for every venue. In fact, I don't ever use a 4x12 when out on stage any more. They're great for looks, but heavy and overly loud on stage. I usually opt for a 1x12. However, when recording, each cabinet has different speakers and has a different sound. So, I like to keep a few options around for that, as well as a few options on amps. I use my Blackstar most of the time, but my Orange, Line 6, Crate, Dean Markley or Fender have all been known to get some use when the right tone is needed. And yes, bass amps vary quite a bit too, so same thing goes there.

That brings us to guitars. Why do I need so many of those?

Let me count the reasons.

1) Variety of tones. Yes, I like to get that right at the source as well as the rest of the signal chain.

2) Variety of playing styles. Some are great for open chords, some better for bar chords, some for rock rhythm, and some are more comfortable for leads.

3) Variety of genres. Some lend themselves better to blues, some to classic rock, and some to metal. The right tool for the job is always a good thing.

4) Variety of looks. I'd never play my BC Rich at church, and wouldn't grab my Gretsch for a gig with a metal band. Some look great under black lights when you want to stand out, while others are better for blending into the background when the singer should be the focus. Right tool...

5) Creativity. Sometimes, grabbing a different guitar can break a creative slump, so I prefer to border on the "obscene number" instead of on the "just the essentials" end of the scale.

6) I love them all. Does it really matter if I have more instruments than what I really need? It's a collection... no different than people with 100's of stuffed animals, salt and pepper shakers, figurines, hats, or even multiple cars.

I'm interested in hearing what reasons you have for being questioned on the amount of gear you own. Obviously, some people have a lot more gear than I do, but I think we all have some of the same underlying reasons.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Recording in reverse

Since it was the vocalist that initiated the recording project I started last week, and she had the songs in mind that I didn't know, we recorded her first. This left a few interesting things.

1) Rhythm and timing. We didn't use a click or even have tempos picked out. I wanted her to just freeform sing it so her natural tempo would come out. It made getting instrumentation lined up rather interesting.

2) Pitch. While she's got great natural pitch, there are times - especially at key changes - that it came out a little funky.

3) Song length. I wasn't sure how long these songs would be, but the first one is well over 5 minutes now. I've been putting strings, organs and guitars all over the place on this and have our percussionist ready to jump in whenever the recording is ready for him, but I still feel like I need to cut some of the song to make it more listener friendly.

What did I learn from this experiment? Plan on recording some framework of instruments first or just use the initial vocal recordings as a scratch vocal track. This certainly wasn't the way to do it, but I'm making it work.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Build Monday : Back side finish on El Capitan

Obviously, when creating a guitar that looks as cool as El Capitan, the back side needs some attention, too. Here are a few pics of it.

Gloss is on and everything is set in place.

I got a great shine from it.

Indoors, the shine shows up even better. I can't wait to get the neck attached and some electronics installed.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Gear Friday: Arbor Semi-Hollow Guitar

There are times where I find a guitar that's way out of my comfort zone, so I have to try it. That's what happened with today's Gear Friday guitar.

This is from a company called Arbor. I didn't know much about them, so I did some research and found a connection to Yamaha and Ibanez. It has a lot of nice attributes to it, but I'll just hit the ones that matter.

For starters, the pickups are decent. Not too hot, not too cool, but just about right for that bluesy and classic rock vibe. The F hole cutouts are sharp, as is the binding. The shape always looks a little funky, almost like the bottom (right side when hanging) is slightly larger than the top, but it plays quite well.

I find that the neck is a bit slimmer and faster than a typical semi-hollow. It stays in tune well, has a decent balance, and overall just sounds and looks good. I don't play it nearly enough, though. I tend to grab a Gelvin, Ibanez, or something I've built for most things. However, I think I'll be recording quite a bit with this and my Gretsch over the next few weeks. If so, I'll post some audio / video of it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Pure vocal talent

It's not every day that I get to talk about real talent from a vocalist. However, that's the case today.

In the past, I've recorded lots of full band audio. Sometimes it was just a practice setting where we were recording to see how it sounded. Other times, it was something intended for an album (or at least a demo). However, it was always some music down first or at the same time as the vocals so there was some frame of reference.

Recently, I had a vocalist come to me to record a contemporary Christian album. This sounded like a reasonable request, but none of the music was ready to go and she was. So, I told her to sing it and we'd use that as scratch vocals if it didn't work out.

Totally. Blown. Away.

After she left, I grabbed my acoustic and started playing the chord progression that was supposed to be under the first of the songs. The between verses was, of course, not timed properly. She would just sing one verse, wait a bit, then sing another. However, the timing within the verse and the pitch were all nearly perfect. Sure, I can do pitch correction if needed, but she's been through these songs enough that it won't be needed.

I think this is what it's supposed to be like when you record vocals. Instead of needing 10 takes to get something usable, 1 take to get something that the instruments need to live up to is so much better.

I'm excited to be able to release a few samples here very soon.

Quick snip of audio to satisfy some curiosity...